There is a video spoof doing the rounds on social media titled “What Hitler thinks of the selection of Jannie du Plessis.” It is very amusing indeed, with Hitler ranting about what an (alleged) “has-been” the older du Plessis has become, but not so funny if you are Doctor Jannie or even his brother, Bismarck.
In fact, maybe the mocking video is just what the Boks need. A spitting-mad Bismarck alongside a brother who knows the pressure is on him – there is many an educated critic that has wondered the same thing as the “Hitler comics” regarding Jannie’s sell-by date – can only benefit a South African pack that has an enormous responsibility to prevent the lethal Wallabies backline from getting front-foot ball.
The 33-year-old Jannie clearly got the message some time ago because his performance against the World XV last week was by some margin his most energetic of the year. He threw himself around with reckless abandon, doubled his work rate and made more tackles in one game than in most of the Super Rugby season. Heck he often got accused by Bakkies Botha, one of the hardest forwards of them all, of having dealt him a “cheap shot” at a ruck, which put Botha off the field to have a gash to his head attended to.
But individual Bok performances have to be seen on the context of a game that was against a World XV who that week had met each other in the pub, thrashed out a game plan over a beer, and turned up and did the tackle bag duty their match fee required.
The negative attention shifted onto Bok veterans such as Sharks props Du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira comes mostly from the consistently good performances of the Stormers props, Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch, and also from the newspaper headlines former Lions loosehead Heinke van der Merwe has been getting in Europe as the “best prop in France”, for his stand-out scrumming for Stade Francais, where he has been based after winning four caps for the Boks in 2007.
Another young turk on the bench tomorrow is the highly rated Cheetahs youngster Lood de Jager, who, along with Pieter-Steph du Toit, is lined up as a potential successor to Victor Matfield.
It is indeed a hungry Bok bench, packed with youngsters that have a point to prove to Heyneke Meyer. For one, Patrick Lambie, will not have given up the fight to prove he should be the starting 10 in England, and not the flyhalf/fullback/centre cover he is shaping up to be. Lambie’s Sharks partner, Cobus Reinach, will likewise be convinced that he should at least be the backup to Fourie du Preez, if not the starting scrumhalf, and not the No 3 he effectively is as the cover for tomorrow’s starting scrumhalf and vice captain, Ruan Pienaar, the 31-year-old Ulster-based former Shark.
The young Bok bench will pack a punch and their energy will certainly be needed after the starting veterans give their all in the first half against a highly combative Wallabies pack that can afford to have David Pocock on the bench.
Malherbe is mentioned in the Hitler spoof, but if he has seen it he is not going to comment, obviously, but he did say this yesterday: “There are a few of us fighting for a World Cup place. I did not play last week, but I must grab my chance tomorrow. I won’t be hanging back. There is an opportunity there for me to take and I will get stuck in.”
De Jager has huge potential and had a fine season in 2014 only to suffer an arm injury in the second round of this year’s Super Rugby.
‘I last played in early February. I am very hungry and can’t wait for my chance,” the 22-year-old said. “Every game is an opportunity for a youngster like me. It is flattering that I am currently next in line to a legend in Victor Matfield. He is the best lineout forward there has ever been. I won’t say I can be a Victor, but I want to be the best Lood de Jager can be, and I want to play for the Boks for a very long time. I want those caps to pile up.”
Referee: Nigel Owens
Wallabies: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 James Horwill, 20 David Pocock, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Drew Mitchell.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Oupa Mohoje, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
By Mike Greenaway
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